Leadership under Uncertainty: The Benefit of Being a Non-Prototypical Group Member



Research on the social identity theory of leadership (e.g., Hogg & van Knippenberg, 2003) has confirmed that group prototypical leaders attract more support from group members than do non-prototypical leaders. Two studies were conducted to test the prediction derived from uncertainty-identity theory (e.g., Hogg, 2007) that this relationship between leader prototypicality and leader support is weakened when group members experience elevated self-related uncertainty – specifically due to an increase in support for non-prototypical leaders. Student participants indicated their level of uncertainty and evaluated their support for a potential student leader for their university who was either prototypical of students at their university or non-prototypical – in Study 1 (N = 98) prototypicality was a between-subjects variable, and in Study 2 (N = 132) a within-subjects variable. As predicted, participants supported the prototypical leader more strongly than the non-prototypical leader, but this effect was significantly weakened (Study 2) or disappeared altogether (Study 1) under uncertainty, due to a significant increase in support for the non-prototypical leader. Implications of this research for empowerment of non-prototypical leaders are discussed.
Contact information:
Babs Verploegh